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Seven Cougars earn All-UMAC honors in football

The Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) announced its postseason football awards Thursday, and seven Cougars were named either first or second team all-conference.

The University of Minnesota, Morris finished the season 5-5 overall, with a 5-4 mark to place fifth in the UMAC.

Evan Beranek led the way for the Cougars as one of just five offensive linemen to gain First-Team honors. The Cougars' only other first-team honoree was Josh Hiltner, who was named the league's top punt returner.

Beranek earns first-team honors for the first time after landing on the second team last season. He anchored an offensive line that rushed for nearly 1,600 yards on the season and ranked fifth in the UMAC in scoring. Only twice all season did the Cougars fall under 100 yards rushing in a game, while topping the 200-yard mark twice.

Hiltner was the top return man in the UMAC, also claiming second-team honors as a kick returner. He returned 17 punts for an average of 10.4 yards per return, while also ranking second in the UMAC with a 20.3-yard average on kick returns.

Earning second team honors were running back Leandro Dower, wide receiver Brendon Foss, linebacker Cody Hickman, defensive back Shane Johnson, and defensive lineman Mitch Zimmer .

Just a freshman, Hickman led the UMAC in tackles with 98 in conference games, as well as a league-high 44 solo stops. He closed the year with 19 in the season's final game to cap a run of five games in double digits out of the season's final six contests. After the final game of the year, he earned his first UMAC Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Dower led the Cougars in rushing with 784 while placing fifth in the UMAC at 86.6 per game.

Foss led the Cougars with 53 receptions and 890 receiving yards, the fourth best marks in the UMAC. The top two scorers on the team also combined for 17 touchdowns on the season, with Foss ranking sixth in the conference in scoring. Foss also had a field day on Oct. 22, posting 184 yards, the fifth best single game in the conference all season.

Joining Hickman on the defense, Johnson and Zimmer round out the Cougars' representation. Zimmer earns All-UMAC honors for the third time in his career, after landing on the first team as a freshman and sophomore. Johnson, meanwhile, is All-UMAC for the first time in his career.

A pair of the Cougars' top tacklers, Zimmer ranked sixth on the team with 42 while Johnson ranked eighth with 37. Zimmer led the team and ranked ninth in the UMAC with 3.5 sacks, while Johnson hauled in a team-high four interceptions, the second best mark in the conference.

Also honored by the UMAC was Matt Anderson, one of 10 honorees for the individual sportsmanship award. The award recognizes those student-athletes who best exemplified sportsmanship throughout the season.

Of the seven honorees, only Hiltner and Zimmer will graduate this year, with four of the remaining five still underclassmen, meaning the future looks bright for Cougar football.